Jethro Tull: Comparing “A Passion Play” and “Thick as a Brick”

Jethro Tull's two albumsJethro Tull released A Passion Play in 1973 after abandoning efforts to record a different album. Fans were excited to learn that the music would follow a similar structure to the previous hit, the masterful epic Thick as a Brick. But the new album left many fans and critics disappointed. I remember my eagerness for the album’s release, and my own befuddlement after listening to it the first time. It had much of the same inventiveness as Thick as a Brick, and certainly had engaging ideas and tunes. But I had a harder time following it musically, with its frequent changes of material, interruptions, and interwoven themes. Only much later have I come to fully appreciate the album’s charms. Continue reading →

The disco backlash

Dance music disco ballDisco evolved in New York City and Philadelphia nightclubs during the late 1960s out of African American and Latin American music. It became especially popular in the gay community. “Love Train” by the O’Jays came out in 1972, arguably the first hit with some of the key elements that came to define disco: lush orchestration (with a focus on strings) and the kick drum emphasizing each beat. The watershed year arrived in 1975, when several songs broke through to mainstream success: “Never Can Say Goodbye” by Gloria Gaynor, “Get Down Tonight” by KC and the Sunshine Band, and “Love to Love You Baby” by Donna Summer. Continue reading →

Operas featuring horror and the supernatural

Engraving representing La barbe bleu, one of operas featuring horrorHorror is no stranger to the world of classical music, particularly when it comes to the stage, and is present from the earliest days of opera. It was the rise of the Romantic movement in music in the early 19th century, however, when spooky themes really took off, similar to the popularity of Gothic novels around the same time. As the late Romantic movement fed into Modernism in the first few decades of the 20th century, composers began exploring more lurid, expressionistic themes. Contemporary operas find inspiration in everything from Japanese Noh to silent horror films to Stephen King. Continue reading →